Restaurant Simplicity, Part 1: How to Strengthen Your Menu
It is a fact that running a restaurant or bar has become too complex. In fact, it’s not just restaurants and bars, it’s everything. Work hours are longer for everyone, the cost of leisure activities are more expensive for everyone, the pile of obstacles that we face when trying to accomplish tasks just grows higher every single day—and every day of our lives, we have to prepare ourselves for a battle or a sacrifice. It’s time for all that stress to stop. This three-part series explores how you can make your restaurant or bar a calm oasis for your guests to escape the hectic difficulties of life. The first thing you should simplify is your menu—here’s how to do that.
Why you need to simplify your menu
Menus are frequently over-cluttered, which makes your guests stress about their first real interaction with your establishment. I’ve written quite a bit about menus on this blog: how to format them, words you should avoid, and why a digital wine menu is your best friend, but I haven’t spoken about why your menu should be simple.
Think back to the last time you were in a restaurant with a vast menu. I’m not talking a little two-pager here, I’m talking one of those laminated, five-fold deals written in teeny-tiny print and filled with un-captioned pictures. It took you forever to order, right? Think about how you felt as you were trying to make your ordering decision. Did you feel elated about the number of choices you had? Did you enjoy repeatedly telling the server “Just another minute please”? How were your feelings about what other people at the table had ordered? Were you jealous of their orders? Ordering from a huge menu is never fun.
First step to restaurant simplicity: If you have a cluttered, lengthy menu, shorten it.
How to declutter your menu
Note: You should complete these steps for your food and drink menus.
1. Look at the first item on your menu and list the ingredients.
2. Go through every other item on your menu, one by one, and identify the ones that have similar ingredients.
3. Determine which one of those items is amazing, or can be made amazing.
4. Keep that one item, cross everything else out.
5. Repeat this process until you have only one of each item with similar ingredients.
6. If your menu is still long, cut down on the number of repeated types of food you have. Are you a brunch place with nine different types of sandwiches? Cut your number down to three: a meaty option, a vegetarian or vegan option, and a hot sandwich option.
7. Keep cutting duplicates until you have a cleaner, leaner menu that reflects only your best plates.
Start Simplifying Tonight
When should you start cutting your menu? Start the process tonight. If you’re unsure which items are your best items, look through your past orders and see what stands out as a repeat. Walk around to your tables tonight and ask your guests for more information. Ask each table what prompted them to select their meals. Many restaurateurs are scared that if they cut down their menus, they’ll lose their clients, but that is usually not the case. Here’s something I’ve noticed as an avid restaurant goer: If you have a lot of items on your menu, none of them will be particularly amazing. And you know what? If your food isn’t amazing, I won’t go back.
When you cut your menu to only your best options, you’ll not only simplify your guests’ ordering process, you’ll increase your restaurant quality and you’ll make weekly ordering and staff training far easier for yourself. Stop making your life more complex than it needs to be, and start focusing on restaurant simplicity. Start simplifying your menu tonight.
- Why Your Wine Menu Is Scaring Your Guests - February 27, 2015
- How to Host a Better Restaurant Week and Get More Customers - February 23, 2015
- Choosing Your Restaurant Wine Glass – 3 Approaches - February 16, 2015